State park pleases with resort-like property, particulars


After a full day of touring covered bridges in Ashtabula County, my family and I stayed the night at Punderson State Park in Newbury, Ohio, before heading back home to Columbus.

We arrived on a foggy afternoon in early May. Daffodils and red bud blooms lit up the gloomy weather and the sight of the park’s English Tudor mansion was something out of the movies. A concrete statue of a gargoyle perched atop a ball near the entrance added considerable intrigue.

Is this really an Ohio State Park, or the scene of a Sherlock Holmes mystery?

It’s certainly a park. Tucked away in rural Geauga County, Punderson is one of the eight state parks in Ohio that have a lodge. There are 26 cottages available near Punderson Lake, a 150-acre body of water that has one boat launch and 18 seasonal docks for rent. The park offers boating, hiking trails, camping, fishing, tennis, and golf at a Jack Kidwell-designed, 18-hole course. Punderson also is a fine location during the winter for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

The lodge was named after Lemuel Punderson, the local township’s first settler in 1808. The manor house took about two decades to build and was completed in 1948.

After the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took over the lake and surrounding area in 1951, the manor house was renovated into a lodge and opened in 1956. It was renovated in 1982.

The Punderson lodge apparently has been the site of several ghost sightings, but I tried not to think about that. We didn’t see or hear any ghosts, nor was I looking for their company.

We did, however, encounter a friendly host at dinner. A restaurant inside the manor offers fine dining overlooking the picturesque lake. The dining area appeared reserved for honeymooners and solitude seekers, not parents with two cranky kids. But our waitress made us feel at ease, assuring us that we were just as welcome.

Mike ordered blackened prime rib, and I had a slice of splendidly prepared halibut. Our children enjoyed grilled-cheese sandwiches with wedges of watermelon.

Afterward, we retired to our room for a ghost-free night’s sleep in a room in the manor.

In the morning, the restaurant serves a full Sunday buffet, which smelled delicious as Rosie and I made our way down the hall toward the indoor pool for a quick dip. Large windows along two walls provide a great view of the natural lake, which was formed during the Ice Age.

Rain kept the children and me indoors, but it didn’t stop my husband from awakening at 7 a.m. and playing a round of golf. He said he got 15 holes in before it started raining hard.

What impressed me most was the cleanliness and seclusion of the park. It felt more like we were at a private resort. As a manor house, the lodge doesn’t have soaring ceilings or a great lobby sitting room. There’s a winding staircase that leads to some rooms. We went upstairs and discovered a small room, tucked away, that’s used as a library.

Punderson is one of eight state park lodges that participate in the “Stays for As” program, which rewards students of any age for good grades. Just show proof of an “A” on a report card, and receive $10 off the published room rate. Only one report card per room may be applied for the discount of up to $50 off.

Other participating parks include Burr Oak, Deer Creek, Hueston Woods, Maumee Bay, Mohican, Salt Fork and Shawnee. (The only other state park lodge is the Lodge at Geneva.)

For more information, visit www.ohiostateparklodges.com or call 1-800-282-7275.